University Women Call for Increased Access to Education for Girls and Women in Detention and Prison

OTTAWA – June 1, 2014 – Women and girls in detention and in prison generally have little education, are poor and have low employment prospects, say the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) on the occasion of IFUW Day on June 1st. IFUW and CFUWcall for increased education programs, including financial, health, human rights, information technology (IT) and language literacy training. Such programs for incarcerated girls and women would help upgrade their skills and improve their employability. “Education has the power to break the link between crime, poverty and poor employment skills”, says Susan Murphy, President of the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Women are most often imprisoned for activities carried out for economic purposes such as theft and fraud. Approximately 80% of women who are federally incarcerated in Canada were unemployed at the time of admission, and have lower than average education levels. For instance, an estimated 50% of incarcerated women have less than grade 9 education, and 40% are considered functionally illiterate. Aboriginal women and other women with multiple barriers such as poverty, mental or intellectual disabilities, addictions, and histories of trauma are over-represented in the female prison population.[1]

“Secondary and tertiary education for girls and women can provide them an alternative source of income to crimes of poverty,” said IFUW President Catherine Bell. “It has been proven that girls and women who are trained in prisons and detention have lower recidivism rates.”

While prisons in Canada offer education to grade ten levels and/or General Educational Development (GED), vocational training and post-secondary education[2] some of the barriers for women to succeed include a lack of qualified instructors and lack of continuity between prisons if they are transferred. Very few vocational education programs in prisons qualify as viable entry requirements for accredited positions outside of prison. Correspondence programs for university level courses are also expensive and difficult to complete because they often lack enabling study space, equipment and access to adequate academic research.[3] Eliminating these barriers to educational success, will go a long way to paving the way to a life without crime for these women.

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace. It is the largest affiliate of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), located in Geneva Switzerland, the leading girls’ and women’s global organisation run by and for women, advocating for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality education and training up to the highest levels. CFUW and IFUW hold special consultative status with ECOSOC and maintain official relations with UNESCO.


For more information please contact:

Robin Jackson, T: 613-234-8252, ext. 102; Email:

Nina Joyce, T: +41 22 731 23 80; Email:


[1]CAEFA. (n.d.) Criminalized and Imprisoned Women. Retrieved from:

[2]Corrections Services Canada. (2011). Education and Employment Programs.

[3]CAEFA. (n.d.). Areas of Advocacy, Educational and Vocational Areas. Retrieved from:

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